URC – Preview – Eleven Irish Test Players Await Vodacom Bulls In Dublin


The Vodacom Bulls will be the first South African team to take the field on Friday at 21:35 (SA Time) in a table-topping encounter against Leinster in Dublin.

The clash between the log-leaders Leinster and the second-placed Vodacom Bulls could prove to be a humdinger because apart from the fact that the top spot on the log will be at stake, both teams will enter the match with confidence.

Leinster are currently on 49 points and the Vodacom Bulls on 45, with the visitors holding a narrow six-point advantage on points difference, meaning a win for the men from Pretoria could displace Leinster from the No 1 spot. A defeat, in turn, could see the Vodacom Bulls drop a spot if the third-placed Glasgow Warriors win their match against the Scarlets.

Spicing up the clash, the Vodacom Bulls come off four successive victories, the last of which was a morale-boosting 31-10 win against the Dragons in Newport, while Leinster comes off three wins in a row. 

The visitors from Pretoria, who upset the Irish giants on their last visit to Dublin, the 2022 season semi-final, will draw inspiration from the fact that Leinster’s last defeat was at home when they went down 22-21 against Ulster.

Fuelling the Vodacom Bulls' motivation, they have been superior on attack this season, scoring 52 more points in their 12 outings, but they will have to be on point to make the most of this against the best defensive team in the competition, Leinster currently share that status with Munster, with both teams having conceded 206 points.

Leinster Rugby included 11 players who featured for Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations start the game, with a further five named among the replacements.

Luke McGrath captains an experienced side that boasts over 1,500 combined Leinster appearances in the starting lineup. 

Jordan Larmour starts the game at full-back, with Rob Russell and James Lowe named on the wing. Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Osborne are partnered in the centre, with Harry Byrne joining McGrath in the half-backs. 

In the pack, Cian Healy will earn his 275th Leinster cap, moving within five appearances of Devin Toner’s record total of 280. Healy is joined by Rónan Kelleher and Michael Ala’alatoa in the front row. Joe McCarthy and Ross Molony pack down in the second row, with Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan completing the pack. 

Among the replacements, there are three centurions named. Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne have over 400 appearances between them.  

They are joined by Dan Sheehan, Michael Milne, Jason Jenkins, Caelan Doris and Liam Turner. Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game, Forwards 

Coach Robin McBryde said the top-of-the-table clash against the Bulls will test the team’s credentials. “They’re really strong, and comfortable in their identity of how they want to play the game. They look to dominate up front and they have multiple threats in broken play too. It’s going to be a tough match. They’re a quality team!”

The Vodacom Bulls have made six changes to the match day 23 including that of Elrigh Louw who returns to the fold for this mammoth encounter.

Louw was sidelined by a shoulder bump but the bulldozing forward returns to the starting lineup where he will lace up his boots alongside Marco van Staden and Marcell Coetzee in the third row. In front of them will be the lock duo of Ruan Nortje and Vermaak. The forwards will have Gerhard Steenekamp, Akker van der Merwe and Wilco Louw upfront.

Behind the forwards will be halfback duo, Embrose Papier at scrumhalf and Johan Goosen directing traffic at flyhalf.

At the back, Canan Moodie is retained at the outside centre and to his left, he will be joined by David Kriel who returns to the matchday squad. Devon Williams switches to left wing with Kurt-Lee Arendse running out on the right-hand side of the park. Willie le Roux will manage affairs from fullback in South Dublin.

Jake White has opted for a five-three split impact squad which will see Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith, Reinhardt Ludwig, Mpilo Gumede, Zak Burger, Chris Smith and Harold Vorster on standby to do duty.


Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Rob Russell, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (c), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy. Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Liam Turner.

Vodacom Bulls: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 David Kriel, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Marcell Coetzee (c), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (cc), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Mpilo Gumede, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Harold Vorster.